India boasts one of the fastest growing economies in the world and an immense population. This is a nation that has come of technological age in the mobile era and as long as five years ago, it was being remarked in India that desktop PCs are for westerners.
Almost 400 million Indians own a smartphone. That sounds like a lot, but it still represents less than 50 percent of the adult population. Keep in mind that in western Europe, smartphone penetration is at 85 percent or more, and you can see why there’s so much interest in developing super cheap handsets to make mobile connectivity accessible to all.
The next billion users
Of course, it is not just a case of equipping the masses with a smartphone. India’s population is predominantly rural, so the challenge is as much about providing reliable mobile connectivity. A meeting of minds at Google’s Mountain View HQ back in 2015 coined the phrase “the next billion users” in a project that looked at the emerging economies that would deliver the next billion internet users. The project was headed up by two men of Indian origin, Sundar Pichai and Caesar Sengupta.
Seven years later, India now has more rural internet users than urban ones. Government support and the low cost data revolution have helped, and the 5G rollout will be the final piece in the puzzle. The political arguments that are currently frustrating progress will be remembered as only a minor inconvenience – 5G is coming and it is only a case of when, not if, it will roll out across India.
Fuelling an iGaming revolution
The biggest question is how the second most populous nation in the world intends to use this internet connectivity. If there is one thing that India loves even more than tech, it is sport. The technical revolution has come about at the same time as franchise cricket tournaments, of which the Indian Premiere League is by far the biggest. Industry experts estimate that Indians wager around $150 billion on cricket each year. iGaming also covers casino games like slots, blackjack and roulette, and it is estimated that Indians currently spend around $1 billion per year here.
These numbers are already immense, but are set to grow dramatically as accessibility improves and more of India’s adult population gets online. There are already websites dedicated to delivering the best casino online reviews for Indian users in what can be a complex environment.
iGaming in India exists in a state of being neither legal nor illegal. Most Indian states prohibit gambling in physical bookmakers or casinos, but are silent on the topic of iGaming. Some prohibit the provision of iGaming services to Indian citizens, but even then, it is only the provider at risk, there is no prohibition on using such services.
Ultimately, however this “make do” scenario is less than ideal. iGaming is here to stay. Regulation would help protect consumers and would generate significant public revenue, and Indian lawmakers would do well to observe the effect that regulation has had on the US economy over recent years.